Jack Kervorkian dead at 83
Royal Oak, Michigan (BDCi) – Dr. Jack Kervorkian, the renown advocate of assisted suicide, and aptly named “Dr. Death”, died peacefully today in a Royal Oak, Michigan hospital of complications from pneumonia and kidney failure.
His lifelong crusade to help those with terminal illnesses end their lives without pain and suffering took on national prominence in the 1990’s when Kervorkian boasted of assisting in over 130 suicides. He thought it was a doctor’s responsibility to help the terminally afflicted.
“I’m trying to knock the medical profession into accepting its responsibilities, and those responsibilities include assisting their patients with death,” Kevorkian told reporters at the time.
He was both an inspiration to many and a pariah/lightning rod to others. In 1997, the state of Oregon was the first state to pass a law that allowed mentally stable people with terminal illness to receive a lethal injection from their physician. The nearby states of Washington and Montana have since enacted similar statutes.
However in Kervorkian’s own home state of Michigan, legislation and rulings progressed to the point in 1998 when assisted suicide became a felony punishable up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Kervorkian pushed the envelope of this law by going on the CBS news show Sixty Minutes and giving an interview to Mike Wallace all the while showing a videotape of his latest assisted suicide.
Kervorkian was prosecuted for this incident in Michigan, and in 1999 was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 10 to 25 years. He ended up serving eight years only, released in 2007 on condition that he would not give any more lethal injections.
He was also an eclectic individual, lover and composer of jazz music, painter, and he once ran for Congress, getting only 3% of the vote. But Dr. Death and his suicide machine named “Mercitron” was the face to the public.
In 2010, Al Pacino played Kervorkian in the HBO drama, “You Don’t Know Jack”, and won an Emmy award for his performance.
“He turned away the vast majority of people who came to him, he didn’t take money for what he did, and he did not see these patients as people he was killing,” Pacino told the New York Times before the film’s premiere. “He saw them as people whose pain he could relieve.”
By Don Weinstein
3 June 2011